Hunter Christopher made his college choice official on Wednesday, and he had plenty of supporters around him to share the moment.
A huge throng of friends, teammates, family and coaches gathered in the J.H. Rose High School media center as the talented pitcher and outfielder and son of a former minor league player signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at NC State.
Red-and-white shirts and hats mixed with the light blue and green of the Rampants as Christopher, wearing a white polo shirt with a red block S on the left chest, was joined at the signing table by his parents, Chris and Mary Catherine; sister, Caroline; grandparents Chris and Peggy Christopher and Charles and Cathy Davenport, and several other family members.
Photos, handshakes and hugs followed.
He said he appreciated the support not only as he formally set his sights on the future but throughout his career.
“My friends are great,” Christopher said. “They’ve supported me all the way. Good family, friends, coaches, everyone’s excited. It makes it a lot easier.”
The signing ceremony, which attracted television, print and online media, far exceeded the one experienced by his father, who also played for head coach Ronald “RV” Vincent at Rose before heading to Auburn University and playing in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
“This is nothing like when I signed,” he said. “We signed in the principal’s office. It was me, my dad, RV and the principal.
“It’s awesome. We’re extremely proud of him, not only as an athlete but as a student and as a person. We look forward to watching him grow in his passion of baseball and keep following his dream.”
Hunter said he also considered offers from Clemson, East Carolina and UNC-Chapel Hill, but NC State felt like the best fit. Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent was the first to offer during Hunter’s sophomore season.
“I just fell in love with the coaches and everything that State has to offer, and I want to be a part of it,” he said.
With his mother attending NC State for two years and the Davenports’ strong ties to the school, heading to Raleigh felt comfortable, Hunter said. He even had some red in his wardrobe.
“We’ve kind of grown up as a State family,” he said. “That’s just what felt right.”
Chris said he left the decision up to his son.
“He visited all of them, and I told him that once he stepped on the campus he would know which one he liked,” he said.
Chris didn’t take that hands-off approach when Hunter was young — although Hunter said hockey was in the mix with baseball.
“He didn’t have a choice,” Chris said, laughing. “At 2 years old, he was hitting cross-handed with a bat in the yard on a tee.”
The choice obviously worked out. He was an all-star throughout Little League and played on a Tar Heel team that reached the Southeast Regionals, helped Rose to a 23-4 record last year and the Pitt County Post 39 team to the Area One title and third place in the state.
Vincent said he saw an early love and understanding of the game from Hunter and expected him to develop into an outstanding player.
“When he got to be about 14 or 15 and got to be a little bit bigger, it was obvious he was going to be a Division I player,” Vincent said. “I’m happy for him. He made a good choice.”
Hunter’s journey has not been without challenges. At the age of 9 at a baseball tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., he began showing signs of what was diagnosed as Type 1 diabetes.
He constantly monitors his blood sugar — about every two innings during baseball season — and takes insulin shots when needed.
“Your blood sugar is up and down all the time,” he said. “The adrenaline is pumping. When you’re low, you’re real dizzy and your head is hurting. When you’re high, it’s hard to do anything. Trying to regulate that has really been a challenge but something I have dealt with since I was 9. It’s not holding me back.”
Hunter has been a part of the Rose varsity for two years. As a sophomore, he hit .343 with five doubles, one triple and 22 RBI and posted a 1-1 pitching record.
He emerged as the Rampants’ ace on the mound as a junior, recording an 8-0 record with five completes games and a 1.62 ERA. In 56.1 innings, he struck out 59 and walked 16.
At the plate, Hunter batted .288 with six doubles and was second on the team in homers (4) and RBI (28 RBI).
Hunter also put together a solid summer both on the mound and at the plate.
“He’s a fun kid,” Post 39 head coach Ryan Meadows said. “You never had to worry about him not showing up focused. His mentality sets himself apart from everyone else. He knows when to flip that switch on and when to come play baseball and be a competitor. That’s what he brought to our team day in and day out. He brought some grit and some grind and was a lot of fun to coach.”
Meadows said Hunter has the tools to excel at the next level either as an everyday player or pitcher but expects him to get a look on the mound first. Hunter’s fastball was clocked in the high 80s and low 90s last summer.
“You get a guy with that kind of arm coming out of high school you can’t shut him down,” Meadows said. “You’ve got to at least give him the fall and his freshman year to see what you can develop into.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and see develop. I think he’s just at the very edge of the surface of what he can do as a player.”
Vincent, of course, is glad to have him for one more season, not only for his ability but his demeanor and leadership
“He’s such a good person. He cares about other people, and he’s a great player. That’s obvious. He’s fun to have on the team; he’s 100 percent a team man. He’s a good leader. I’m really looking forward to having him this spring.”
Hunter is just relieved to have his college choice settled before his final year on the field begins.
“I feel like you can play stress-free ball and go out there and have fun like it should be and not have to worry about the college process,” he said. “I think it’s definitely going to be less stress my senior year, just go out there with my friends and play ball and try to win a state championship.”